Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Telemarketing Can Cover Outside Of Facebook, Outside Of Social Media

One of the strongest points of telemarketing is the flexibility, speed, and the skill it demonstrates when it comes to both customer and prospect engagement. Today, these particular advantages are needed more than ever as online technology enables the vast and swift gathering of information but the efforts to determine and utilize its value are still way far behind.

Many marketers are saying that social media is at the top when it comes to that information with Facebook still remaining as the lead figurehead of the new medium. The most naïve even go as far as to say that traditional techniques like telemarketing would be completely phased out by purely digital tools.

However, even within the online sphere, professionals are saying that Facebook admits to the limits of its own user information. One of them is Robert Hof, a Forbes contributor:

Social activity has long been embedded in most online services, from Google search (based on the collective linking choices of website owners) and email to Pinterest, Twitter, and those content sharing services such as ShareThis and AddThis. And now that Facebook has created its own ad exchange, allowing advertisers to use data from elsewhere on the Web to target messages to people while they’re on Facebook, even Facebook itself is acknowledging that there’s useful data to be gleaned from off-Facebook activity.”

Still, why focus on just the limits of Facebook? Why openly admit the flaws of online information and remain closed to the possibility of better information obtained outside the internet? It'd be much better to recognize both as equals that can form together to cover the gaps.

Now here are two of the several flaws of social media information and how telemarketing helps cover for these flaws:

  • Anonymity – Facebook and other social media sites are still in the midst of cracking down on anonymous users. Still, that's the problem with digital technology. It's still relatively easy to fabricate multiple social media accounts, multiple online personas, and multiple pieces of contact data. More than half of these might not even be for ulterior purposes but are simply different branches of your prospect's business presence online. On the other hand, you might end up finding two of these branches but can only qualify their business as a whole. Sadly, this is something more easily avoided with just a call to the phone number instead of just instant qualification via social media.

  • Online Security – Given the never-ending tide of hacker attacks and major online leaks, it's no surprise that business are still quite hesitant to put all business information online. And take note, much of that information is critical to qualifying them for sales leads. You may be able to glean the size of their business from social media but good luck trying to convince them to share financial information like their budget.

Social media is but only a percentage of total information you can find online. Though because of that, it shares its flaws. There is still too much anonymity and online communication remains to have many security. It's always more prudent to not depend on it entirely and use offline tools like telemarketing services to cover for its limitations.

Monday, August 27, 2012

B2B Telemarketing – Targeting DMs With The Right Authority

Aiming straight for the CEO isn't always the solution in B2B telemarketing. For one, these are likely the busiest individuals throughout the entire organization. There's no question that a lot of safeguards have been set up both by the organizations and the CEOs themselves to prevent callers from wasting their time.

Now one form of safeguard is by diverting calls (most often to voicemail). If you're lucky, they might instead direct you to someone who they believe has the proper authority to discuss business with you.

But take a step back and think: don't you realize that there are other people you could call in an organization who will, in fact, see more relevance in what you're offering? That's why a common selling point among B2B telemarketing firms is their accuracy in identifying the right decision maker (DM).

And guess what? These DMs aren't always the CEO.

You can't rely on luck forever though so stop aiming for the CEO all the time and expect their people to redirect you. You can start improving yourself by taking the following steps:

  • #1. Getting the general idea – First, review your offer. Unlike B2C, B2B transactions most often involve some sort of business solution, wholesale supplies, or another form of business assistance. Simply put, your business helps their business. So exactly how is that accomplished? What particular function are you supposed to help with? This will define your target market. Identify common needs and familiarize the processes you're supposed to benefit. 
  • #2. Ask more questions – The general idea can still be too general. In B2B, there's a higher demand for the specifics. Your telemarketers shouldn't be afraid to ask questions. You already know the basic functions and needs that you're supposed to serve. Use that knowledge to ask who is in charge of dealing with these concerns. Some functions tend be to tossed back and forth between two departments so focusing on the function itself will help determine who's really overseeing it. Also, it never fails to ask permission through other means before being too direct. 
  • #3. Avoid participating in internal politics – In a perfect world, businesses should always work together as a united organization. Alas, this isn't a perfect world and tensions will always arise. Your telemarketers should avoid getting caught in the crossfire of internal politicking. Stay objective as much as possible and if all else fails, back out and wait for things to simmer down. 
  • #4. Use appointment setting just to be sure – All right so your telemarketers think they're close to qualification. As a final test, have them offer to schedule an appointment. They can even start hinting towards this just so they can be sure that the people they're talking to will be the same ones who will meet their sales representatives.

CEOs aren't always the best targets for your B2B leads. The best targets are those who are knowledgeable about the business processes and functions that your business seeks to help with. This knowledge allows them to understand the benefits of your solutions and products. At the same time, it gives the right authority to accept and close the deal. That authority should be the prime focus of your telemarketing tactics when targeting DMs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Inbound Telemarketing – There Shouldn't BE A Voicemail Hell!

In the above video, you will find suggestions for a few websites that can help assist customer service callers bypass what they call 'voicemail hell'. Voicemail hell is apparently their term for the mind-numbing grind they undergo before they actually get in touch with a marketing representative. However, perhaps the biggest tragedy is that these sites exist because of a mistake. That mistake is that your telemarketing service shouldn't be putting customers in that hell in the first place!

If you think this is bad for regular customers, what about busy business owners or even C-level decision makers? These people are busy and their day doesn't leave them much time to put up with this kind of service. Excessive automation is a bad thing in telemarketing and there's no excuse for it. Besides, there are plenty of alternatives to this and they don't necessarily even require you to do away with telemarketing at all:
  • Website – If you want your customers to troubleshoot a problem, don't force them to use a phone for it. It's a lot easier for them to go to your website and get their information there. That does away with much of the automation they would otherwise go through in their calls. Any more serious problems should be good enough reason to connect them with a live customer service representative. 
  • Email – A contact center doesn't have to be closed off to email. Some customers don't want to discuss the problem in real time but instead would first prefer to collect their thoughts and write it down. If your B2B customers want to write down these problems, use an online ticket system that sends messages to your company inbox. Take note though that your agents should still respond as quickly as possible. 
  • Social Media – Getting real-time feedback via social media is another better idea. Customers can help each other out with the easier problems instead of forcing themselves to call upon customer support all the time. The community-oriented purpose of social media also serves as your eyes and ears to your market so keep them open to spot trends in problems. 
Now asides from the alternatives, there are a few more things you can learn from this video with regards to good customer service:

  • 1: People still want live telemarketing agents – The existence of voicemail hell can serve as proof that people still want to talk to live agents instead of anything automated. They want to engage with and talk to a live person. This demand could go beyond only customer service and could also reflect the need for real conversations in marketing activities like B2B lead generation
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  • 2: Excessive dependence is bad - Too much dependence on new technology will eventually bring up its flaws. However, you shouldn't wait for that time to come. Don't be closed to the idea that there are still some things that live agents can do that machines can't. 
  • 3: Time is still of the essence – It also serves as a reminder that, whether your customer is B2B or B2C, their time is and always will be valuable. When communicating with customers, don't take up too much of that time by forcing them to spend it in phone traps like voicemail hell.

There aren't just alternatives to the bad practices that result in voicemail hell. Its existence is proof that people still want to talk to live agents whether its in customers support or even in telemarketing. That should give you all the reason you need to retain real people who can give a real conversation.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Get A Contact Center Where Labor Works With Technology

One of the benefits of having a contact center and not just simply a call center is that it allows businesses to use more advanced forms of communication to stay in touch with their target market. In the case of B2B markets, flexible communication is even more important because business owners use these new technologies to engage their own customers.

However, as in any industry these days, you need to quickly identify if your agents are really working with the technology that they have or are just struggling to live without it. The same applies if you turn it around. So many marketers easily cave-in to hype and adapt these new forms simply because they're new.

Such is not a good response to change and is not going to give you any progress. Both situations are the result of too much pride that it blinds them to any flaws. You just have one side who overestimates human skill while the other overestimates technology. You can see these in outsourced marketing firms as much as you will see it within your own company's marketing team. But regardless of which describes your lead generator, you need to bring them back down to earth and objectively view these elements. Instead of setting them up to fight, why not see how well they can support each other?

  • For technology – Skeptics of technology often challenge new forms by asking one simple question: How does this help? You should ask the same question. Don't just invest in or outsource something unless you understand how the technology helps agents perform. For example, will the data gathered result in insight to overall market behavior? Can this new channel of communication help generate permission for outbound telemarketing? How do you calculate the results to see if it's really effective? You can even simply ask if this can at least help your agents work just a little bit faster without compromising quality. Again, the key is to stay objective and not cave-in to hype. 
  • For agents – If the technology is proven to help agents work, then they'd better use it. Integrating new technology isn't often as wasteful as some critics claim. The waste could actually be their own fault and it's your job to see if that is the case. Just as technology is capable of improving marketing efforts, marketers should have a complimentary amount of expertise to understand how why this is so. One example is when you enforce the use of email to help qualify sales leads. Therefore, your agents must understand how email actually helps in enhancing engagement with prospects.

As they say, tools are only as good as the people who use them. Taking pride in only either human effort or advanced technology only blinds you to what you can really do. Today, new technology only continues to offer new ways to engage markets and gather information about them. Such means of recording, calculating, and organizing data is beyond human capacity. On the other hand, what good is all that when you can't understand how it all helps in generating qualified leads? That requires a human mind and not just coded algorithms.

So when you're evaluating a contact center, make sure that its agents know the difference between using technology to enhance their efforts and simply trying to substitute one for the other. Both human skill and technology have limits as much as advantages.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Telemarketing Standards That Are Shared By Social Media

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Many business professionals are hailing social media as the tool that's revolutionizing 21st century marketing. It's new. It's young. It's keeping with the times. Plenty of social media experts are saying that even B2B companies should start looking to social media as their new mode for marketing. Could this be the end of traditional B2B marketing forms such as telemarketing?

The truth is every trend has its critics and the emphasis on social media being all young and hip is one prime area of vulnerability. A good example was just published last week by Inc.com: 11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn't Run Your Social Media.

What's interesting is that the reasons do not only identify the traits of a more appropriate social media manager. These same traits have long been sought out in professional telemarketers and call center agents.

1. They're not mature enough. - Maturity is critical for any kind of marketing agent, regardless if they use telemarketing or social media. Maturity and accountability are important ingredients in marketing as well as sales.

2. They may be focused on their own social-media activity. - You think only social media managers need to be monitored? Think again. Productivity is not just demanded of telemarketing agents but all employees in general.

3. They may not have the same etiquette--or experience. - It can actually be argued that telemarketing has a higher standard than social media when it comes to this. Long before social media ever became a marketing trend, telemarketing companies have been recording and reviewing messages for substance and consistency.

4. You can't control their friends. - Using company resources to communicate with friends has never been a good idea to begin with, whether it's social media or through telemarketing. It's not very professional.

5. No class can replace on-the-job training. - The experience of actually working in the field has always been a common selling point among telemarketing companies. On the other hand, even extensive experience on social networking is shorter in comparison given that it's still a young face in the whole of marketing.

6. They may not understand your business. - Naturally, any sort of marketer should be familiar with what they're marketing. Again, social media isn't alone. Don't forget that there are other effective marketing practices, such as telemarketing.

7. Communication skills are critical.” - Communication is another key ingredient in marketing. Agents should be able to relay it clearly, whether in writing or speech.

8. Humor is tricky business. - It's not just about humor but propriety. Just as social networking needs to draw boundaries, so should telemarketing agents.”

9. Social-media savvy is not the same as technical savvy. - Being good at talking on the phone isn't a mark of a good telemarketer either. They too are required to have additional skills like database management as well as familiarity with processes like appointment setting.

10. Social-media management can become crisis management.” - Handling emergency cases is necessary when telemarketing is used for customer support. They're not eager to make common mistakes either nor are they eager for their consequences.

11. You need to keep the keys. - Having access to records and controlling the tools being used isn't exclusive to social media or even telemarketing. There are limits to free reign and where they start is where higher management begins.

To summarize, the dangers of hiring inexperienced social networking managers are no different from the dangers of hiring any other kind of inexperienced marketing agent. Fortunately, telemarketing has long set up standards to minimize these dangers whereas social media has just begun!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Appointment Setting - Don't Depend Too Much On Individual Influence

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There are times during an appointment setting campaign that certain individuals start to influence your market more effectively than the rest. This happens whether it's in the marketing or sales stages of the process.

In marketing, this happens when you rely on a key influencer to refer their friends and followers to your business. For sales, it can happen when a particular salesperson has gained a sort of celebrity status by making success out of even the least qualified sales leads.

At first, it sounds a lot like the celebrity endorsements of B2C. And for the most part, there are similarities. The only difference in B2B appointment setting, in fact, just lie within the products and services involved. In either case however, an excessive dependence on individual influence is risky. These same risks could affect the success of appointment setting for three reasons:

  • #1: They won't be around forever. - Look at Steve Jobs. Despite how many mourned his passing, many more still became uncertain of his company's future. The success of Apple seemed very hard-wired into Jobs' image. Though touching on the subject of death is a bit drastic, it should teach one thing: nothing lasts forever; even clients gained from quality b2b appointment setting services. The decision maker you've often had close contact with may not always be in that position or even work in the same company. They have goals of their own too and it might take them places where you can't do much business anymore. The same goes for a celebrity salesperson. He or she won't always be there. They may even have their own dreams that would take them outside your company. How are you going to fill the large gap in sales that they'll leave behind?

  • #2: They won't always influence the market - This isn't as hard to believe as some might think. Remember, nothing lasts forever. It not only goes for an individual influencer but also for their own influence. It could be the result of something as terrible as a loss in credibility or relevance. It could also be something as simple as a decision to not influence for personal reasons. It's the same thing with salespeople. Some might feel overconfident and start toeing the lines of professional behavior. Others might start feeling the pressure and this would affect their original capacity for making a successful sale.

  • #3: Laziness – This doesn't mean laziness of the influencer. Rather, it's the laziness of you and the rest of your company! Do you seriously think it's a good idea to rely on an influencer to refer their followers for appointment setting while you're being lax with your own marketing and sales? Given the above two reasons, the role of key influence can be a lot more limited than you think. On the other hand, overestimating it can lull your marketing into a false sense of security while placing the burden of sales on a single salesperson all because of popularity.

Both reasons center on the mortality of both the key influencer as well as the influence they exert on your market. Therefore, your dependence on them shouldn't strain that mortality. It's an extreme word but again: nothing lasts forever. It's also more proof of why it's unsafe to mostly depend on outside factors to influence your market using b2b appointment setting.

Instead, your marketing strategies shouldn't depend on a single individual while leaving out the rest. Just because popular fiction puts the fate of the world on the shoulders of a single hero doesn't mean you should do the same in real life, with your real company! Follow good appointment setting practices and all the beneficial things will follow through.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

B2B Lead Generation – New Sales Skills Need Complimentary Marketing Support

B2B lead generation is a tool that offers sales not only opportunities but also insight on their prospect. That insight is critical given the rise of new sales techniques that are allegedly doing away with the old.

At least, that's what Lynette Ryals and Javier Marcos are saying on the HBR Blog Network. To summarize, they're echoing the beliefs of many other sales professionals that the old modes of traditional selling are making way for the type of selling that emphasizes on relationships prior to the sale. These in turn would require new skills from sales people and thus, marketing should be able to come up with complimentary support to help them meet these new demands:

Commercial skills and capabilities are about financial insight, business acumen and customer insight — specifically, insight beyond what the customer has articulated.”

This only raises the amount and grade of information that marketing services should acquire. The methods also need to be more subtle. Techniques like taking surveys need to ask questions that are formulated based on knowledge and analysis that's beyond the capability of prospects.

Relational skills and capabilities include the ability to manage multi-level, multifunctional relationships, to understand relational dynamics and to inspire trust.”

Establishing trust is one of the initial tasks in any marketing approach. You don't attempt the sale when you're first contacting a prospect. They have to be qualified first and more interest needs to be established. That interest however can be affected by the amount of trust that you gained. Acquiring said trust means you're helping sales to develop a connection and gain more and more permission to stay connected.

Managerial skills and capabilities needed by people in sales roles include people management skills (because so much business-to-business selling is now done in teams and cross-functionally); high ethical standards and integrity (growing customer demands in relation to corporate social responsibility and ethics are changing selling behaviors); openness to change and adaptability; and influencing skills.”

Now just because high managerial skills are necessary doesn't mean you can't make your marketing efforts easier to manage. If sales is willing to lay out clear-cut requirements, then the marketing approach must be ready to meet those requirements. The same goes for their ethical standards (make sure your practices are legitimate and acceptable). An openness to change also extends to marketing given that different forms of marketing are often the result of changes in market behavior.

Cognitive skills and capabilities include innovative problem solving; the ability to identify opportunities; ”

Seeing as how generating leads is all about indicating opportunities, any additional information from marketing should ultimately serve to assist in identifying problems. This is where it's most critical for sales to lay out specifications while at the same time, marketing strategies should end up delivering leads that meet these specifications. Some sales teams won't demand anything too complicated but others might. In the end, it's all about how one party coordinates with the other.

The new skills described in this article can apply to B2B sales in any industry. Thus, it's not surprising that you can demand complimentary marketing support for it from any type marketer out there. You can have these requirements for online marketers as well as professional telemarketers. A change in sales will always demand complimentary marketing support.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Different Ways To Generate Permission For B2B Telemarketing

Decision makers are in a position of authorization. Authorization implies permission. Therefore, if you had ways to get that kind of permission, B2B telemarketing would be lot easier.

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So then, why is it still so hard? Well, the challenge is not just in the telemarketing but at least half of it (or more) lies in getting that permission. Their authority wouldn't be all that important if was that easy to get now would it? To succeed in B2B telemarketing though, gaining that permission has its long term benefits so you should make sure that your telemarketers are trying out the following techniques. These techniques can be used by in-house and outsourced agents alike.

  • Online Engagement – Online engagement can be less direct than telemarketing and is therefore good for asking permission first. Usually, it's either done through email or social media conversations. Remember to focus on the engagement though because that's the core of these tactics (social media especially). Once the conversation starts feeling too long and drawn-out however, you can ask permission to call. Their consent will not only get you past their gatekeepers but also enable future follow-up calls. 
  • Inbound Marketing – Instead of directly asking for it, you can also attract permission via inbound marketing. You can set up an informative website with a contact form for phone numbers for example. Forms that are filled will serve as the signal to call as well as their consent. But in order for this to be effective, you need to know proper targeting. Use advertisements only when you know that your intended market is viewing them. Have your website optimized with the right keywords. The call should also be used to get more information beyond that was spelled out on the contact form. 
  • Customer Database – You can also target your current customers if you've already established several good B2B relationships. You've already done what was necessary so that they're no longer cautious of your calls. The only challenge now is to maintain that trust. Using your own customer database will only work if you have entirely new products and services that they might be interested in. Therefore, customer feedback is important. It will guide innovation and development so that you'll have something worth marketing to them.

Getting the permission of a decision maker isn't always easy but once you acquire it, it can be smoother sailing for the rest of the sale process. Why? Because asking their permission shows that you care about their authority and their business. Inbound marketing can show that you're aware of what's going among their businesses but aren't afraid to learn more about each of them. Targeting your customer database shows that you haven't just left them on their own once the sale was made. You're still willing to keep hearing from them. Using online engagement prior to calling demonstrates that you're not eager to sell and want to first find out their problems before offering a solution. There are many different ways to generate permission for telemarketing but don't forget the values that you can learn from each technique!